Lenovo Yoga Book Review: Ecstatic, Erratic – The Harvey Dent of Two-In-Ones
Remember Harvey Dent? The charismatic district attorney of Gotham City (yeah, yeah, THE Gotham City where you find THE Batman) has a traumatic experience and thanks to a mutilated face, goes mad, and becomes a criminal known as Two-Face. But no mere criminal. For perhaps in all of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, there is no one to match him in terms of sheer persistence and dual-themed plotting. Only the Joker (hats off, please) is ranked ahead of him and well, some rank the Joker above Batman himself (thank you, Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson, this is all your doing)
Well, blame the DC DNA infected blood running through our veins, but the Yoga Book from Lenovo put us very much in mind of Mr. Dent. Complex, eh? Well, that is because the device evokes a range of sentiments that are as diverse as does the man himself – after a while, you forget what it is that is making you shake your head: admiration or frustration. Them Batman feels, eh?
Let’s get one thing out of the way: at first glance – all right make it on the hundredth or thousandth glance as well – the Yoga Book is drop dead gorgeous. Its visual impact made us sound like smitten teenagers and quote a UB40 romantic hit in our first impressions of the device. It is incredibly thin (a mere 9.6 mm), a blend of magnesium and aluminium with the Swiss watch inspired hinges that we have seen on higher end Yoga devices, only slightly heavier (690 grams) than the original iPad and well, in this form factor, it actually crams in a dedicated touchscreen keyboard and a 10.1 inch full HD touchscreen that can swivel a full 360 degrees (hey, this is a Yoga Book, remember). Add to this a stylus that can write on paper as well as on the touchscreen keyboard and transfers information seamlessly to the machine, support for 4G connectivity, battery life that’s in the region of a dozen hours and Windows 10, and you have what’s on paper, the perfect machine for road warriors who like to scribble, sketch and type and do not like to be bogged down by too much. Yes, some might complain about the absence of a conventional USB port – connectivity options include a micro-USB port, a micro-HDMI port and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi – but in the era of the MacBook Pro, there is nothing that a few adaptors cannot fix (and we think the 4G connectivity option opens the door for cloud connectivity).
Move beyond the appearance and spec promise, though and you see Harvey Dent morph slowly into Two-Face. There are two major villains of the piece here – the much-talked about Halo Keyboard and we suspect the Intel Atom x5-Z8550 Processor. Yes, the full HD display is a very good one and we also love the fact that Lenovo has thrown in speakers with support for Dolby Audio Premium. If you are using this device for watching videos and films, browsing the Web and reading online content, you are very good to go. Windows 10 works smoothly enough and we loved watching online videos and checking out news apps and sites on the touchscreen display. And yes, the battery comfortably lasts about a dozen hours of regular usage, which is brilliant.
Move from passive mode to active, however, and things start to go steadily downhill. We have been receiving a lot of queries about Lenovo’s touchscreen Halo Keyboard, which is basically a touch keyboard – there are no “real” keys, just a touchscreen on which the keys appear. And although Lenovo claims that the keyboard has been specially designed for the Yoga Book and comes with haptic feedback (gentle vibrations) to come close to a “real” typing experience, in real time usage, that is actually not quite the case. We often found ourselves making mistakes, and notwithstanding a very good autocorrect system, stumbled way too often for comfort. Yes, the keyboard is all right for the odd longish email and Facebook status message, but we would not recommend writing something as long as this review on it. We suspect that things will get easier as we get used to it, but then we can also see people getting irritated at the whole concept of having to get used to it in the first place – many would point out that for a little more, they could get a MacBook Air with better specs and a keyboard that needs no getting used to. We found typing on the onscreen keyboard of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro (which costs about the same) a much more comfortable experience.
Which brings us to the specs in general and the Atom processor in particular. Yes, it comes paired with 4 GB RAM and as long as you stay in netbook territory, it works just fine. But start pushing matters a bit, and hey presto, in come the lags. We even found things slowing down when we opened more than a dozen tabs on Chrome – mind you, the Edge browser seemed to work just fine with them but then so many of us live in a Chrome-shaped world these days. And no, we are not even going into the gaming world with it. It is as if the Yoga Book is a netbook trapped in the body of something far more premium – oh how Mr Dent would love the twin identities.
The stylus is a mixed bag. While the Real Pen allows you to scribble and sketch on the touchscreen keyboard area (it goes blank when you are using a stylus – and becomes a plain surface called Create Pad – just hit the pen icon on top), and even lets you insert a real ink refill and do the same on paper placed over the Create Pad area, we found the process slightly iffy. Yes, the pressure sensitivity of the Create Pad area is excellent and it comes with OneNote integration allowing you to save drawings and notes on the cloud, but we found changing refills on the stylus a bit of a pain and once or twice almost wrote on the Create Pad using the ink refill. And honestly, given the fact that Windows 10 comes with support for touch and even handwriting recognition, we felt it was actually more comfortable to take a regular stylus and scribble on the display itself after turning it into “tablet” mode, courtesy those hinges. Mind you, we are not artists – for all you know, that breed might love the fact that you can sketch on paper and see your sketch appear on the display in front of you. And well, carrying the stylus and refills can be a slight hassle.
So where does that leave the Lenovo Yoga Book?
There is no doubting its design, sheer portability and the level of innovation it brings in terms of UI. Oh all right, let’s put it out there – this is simply the most innovative Windows notebook we have seen from any manufacturer for a while now. But should you buy it?
Well there are two answers: (how Two-Face would approve of that)
If you are patient enough, love to try out innovations and so most of your work in a Web-based world, then this is a no-brainer. Yes, you will get better-specced notebooks for the Rs 49,990 that the Yoga Book charges, but none of them is remotely as versatile, portable or good-looking as it is.
If you are looking for a two-in-one to replace your regular notebook and are a spec sheet lover, we would suggest giving it a miss. This is not for anything beyond MS Office, a bit of sketching and Web browsing really. And the absence of regular USB ports will rankle!
The Yoga Book is not your regular notebook or two-in-one. Unfortunately, this fact also stops it from replacing regular notebooks. It is a great device for those who love trying out innovation but at Rs 49,990, we suspect some might find the price of innovation to be a bit too much on the higher side, especially when you have the likes of the iPad Pro (9.7) and core i5 chip enabled notebooks floating around in the same price range, not to mention older versions of the MacBook Air (yes, the range might be dead, as per some, but it remains the gold standard in terms of sheer productivity on the move).
Considering buying the Yoga Book? We would recommend doing what Two-Face would whenever faced with a big decision.
Flip a coin.
There is sheer innovation ecstasy on one side, sheer erratic functionality on the other.
But then, since when was genius consistent?